Primulas and Auriculas
As we enter into the darkest months of the year there is something quite pleasant about thinking ahead to early spring when the first signs of new life start to appear, filling us with optimism as winter meets the promise of spring.
Mountain Cowslip, Bear’s Ears, Ricklers, Painted Ladies and Dusty Millers, Primroses and Cowslips are all names historically given to the ever evolving primula and auricula. In the wild they can be found from hedgerows to mountain tops and in the UK they pop up well before the buds of daffodils burst. These little plants are hundreds of years old with a fascinating and rich history. First recorded in England in the Elizabethan period and very popular with the Victorians, they have captivated the hearts of many and stood the test of time remaining very collectable.
In eighteenth century Britain, weavers and artisans dominated florists’ societies. Florist was a name given to a plant enthusiast and grower. These plantsmen grew plants for pleasure as well as with the intention of introducing improvements and new specimens, unbeknown to them just how sophisticated they were in propagating plants in comparison to what we do today.
Part of the history of these plants is thought to be steeped in the deepest darkest depths of pre-18th Century east end London. The working classes were passionate about horticulture which is still thriving in London’s east end to this day and it is amazing to think that weavers were possibly the only recorded botanists in the metropolis at that time in history. Growers favoured showy and highly valuable plants. The classic florists’ flowers, of the eighteenth century were carnations, pinks, tulips, hyacinths, ranunculus, anemones, polyanthuses and auricular primulas. Florists’ feasts were events held at inns, which in London were traditionally held in Spitalfields. Growers would lay out their treasures on long display tables, award prizes for the best plants and enjoy a communal meal. These were the precursors to our modern day horticulture shows where we network and show off what we have grown. All of this passion kept a regular flower market going in Bethnal Green that has passed down the centuries to now be known as the very popular Columbia Road Flower Market.
Traditionally grown in little terracotta tom pots lined up on shelves in auricular theatres. They are great for urban gardens and those with little or no space. In a container they can be placed anywhere and are perfect for potting up in autumn for sales the following spring.
Available in beautiful enamelled colours, pastel tints and jolly rich sweet shop brights their flowers are exquisitely symmetrical. There are as many different leaf shapes as there are flower forms and colours. Stems rise above a modest rosette of long, obovate, textured deep green leaves with clusters of single or double flowers up top.
It is easy to see how these are the kind of plants that can easily become very addictive. Seems to me that one is never enough and they bring out the collectomaniac in people
No sunbathing! No swimming! and deadheading is a must for new flowers!
With no fear of the cold and frost, they like the cool outdoors but they don’t like getting their feet wet or sitting in extreme temperatures under the baking hot sun; dappled shade is preferred. Keep them cool and they will flower for a longer period than you may expect and remain looking as good as new.
Many auriculas have a reputation for being hard work but those are mainly the show auriculas. However, our primulas and auriculas are surprisingly easy to grow and maintain and can be planted up in the garden as well as in containers. Here are a few from our collection that we recommend:
Our Belarina series have ample sized double flowers which appear from February and are long flowering.
Fl. Feb – May, 12 x 20 cm
Primula Belarina ‘Valentine’ (P) – One of our favourites. A delightful deep red double primula. Sumptuous and romantic with rich green leaves and smothered in ruffled flowers between February and May. Lovely to be presented as a Valentine’s Day gift in a small pot as well as being enjoyed all spring long in the garden.
Our border auricula series are a range of easy to grow plants that are bred with sturdy flower stalks that hold aloft a full head of double flowers in rich bright colours and a backdrop of grey-green foliage. Fl. Mar – May 40 x 30cm
Primula auricula ‘Late Romantic’® (VR) – Delicate pastel pink, slightly scented flower
Primula auricula ‘Shaun’® (VR) – Has scented golden yellow blooms
Primula auricula ‘Purple Pip’® (VR)– New for 2016. Deep violet flowers
Primula auricula ‘Lunar Eclipse’® (VR) – New for 2016. Copper orange flowers with yellow eyes
Our Kennedy series has unusual purple bronze foliage, floriferous and hardy down to -15 °c. Fl. Feb – May 12 x 15cm
Primula Kennedy ‘Dunbeg’ (VR) – soft peach coloured blooms